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Family Menu Makeovers

By Rennie Aranda, Skinny Gene Registered Dietitian

Having a hard time deciding what to make for dinner that’s both healthy and delicious (and hopefully the kids will enjoy, too)? Feeding your family healthy food does not mean it’s all about salads and vegetarian dishes. There are plenty of ways you can transform family favorites into healthier alternatives that the whole family can enjoy. Just a few ingredient adjustments can make foods like macaroni and cheese, pizza, and hot dogs transform into healthy versions with lower calorie and fat content and higher in fiber and nutrients. In addition, eating meals together as a family has a range of benefits, including better grades in school and forming healthier eating habits. Solve the daily dilemma of, “what’s for dinner?” by making meals that are a lot healthier than they appear with these healthy family-friendly recipe adjustments:

Family Menu Makeovers (picky eater approved)

Menu Makeover_Final


Macaroni & Cheese:

–          Use 2 tablespoons of no-trans-fat margarine instead of 4 tablespoons of butter

–          Use low-fat milk instead of whole milk

–          Add a tablespoon or two of fat-free or light sour cream or low fat yogurt, if needed for creaminess

–          Add veggies on the side or in the macaroni (such as ½ cup of steamed broccoli per serving)


Hot Dogs:

–          Choose a reduced-fat hot dog (Ball Park Lite, Louis Rich Turkey Franks, and Hebrew National Reduced Fat are low-fat options)

–          Look for whole-wheat, or higher fiber bun options

–          Add onions and tomato, for added nutrition

–          Choose lower-fat and lower-calorie condiments such as ketchup or mustard


French Fries:

–          Choose lower-fat frozen French Fries

–          Bake them instead of frying

–          Complement this side dish with a fruit and a vegetable, so the family does not overdo the fries


Family-favorite Mexican-style dishes:

–          Use reduced-fat Jack and/or cheddar cheese

–          Work in beans every chance you get

–          Use extra-lean meat (super-lean ground beef, skinless chicken breast, lean pork trimmed of visible fat)

–          Use fat-free sour cream instead of regular

–          Use whole grains and vegetables (brown rice, whole-wheat tortillas, tomatoes, green peppers, etc.)



–          Use whole grain pizza dough options or switch it up with fun options like pita bread for a personal pizza

–          Try healthier meat options such as turkey pepperoni or chicken breasts

–          Use shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

–          Add plenty of your favorite vegetable toppings


Pasta dishes:

–          Use a whole-wheat pasta of your choice

–          Cook ingredients (such as meat and veggies) with olive oil instead of butter

–          Use lean meats such as skinless, boneless chicken breasts

–          Add plenty of your favorite veggies

–          Try olive oil and your favorite herbs/spices for flavor instead of cream-based sauces


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